Saturday, June 30, 2007

FARC and Government blames each other for massacre

On June 30 , the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in the spanish acronym) informed the relatives of eleven politicians killed recently in the southwestern province of Narino, on the border with Ecuador, that they will hand over the corpses only if the Colombian Army ceases all military activity in that area. It seems that the eleven men were shot on June 28, and it is still not clear how it happened. FARC claims that the hostages were killed during crossfire between its members and a Colombian Army rescue team while the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has accused FARC of having killed the hostages.
"The hostages were murdered in cold blood, no rebels or soldiers were killed, and this proves that there was no crossfire," said Uribe during a television interview. Uribe added that he had never ordered the Army to carry out a rescue operation since there was no information about the exact location of the hostages retained by FARC. Uribe has requested an international commission to establish the real causes of the massacre and to recover the bodies of the dead politicians that were kidnapped by FARC in 2002.
On June 30 FARC informed the relatives of the dead hostages that they will hand over the corpses only if the army ceases all military activity in the area.
According to the Colombian press, there are four possible reasons why the hostages were killed:
1) Constant flyovers by Army helicopters and movements by navy ships could have made the members of FARC think a rescue operation was underway, forcing them to kill the hostages.
2) A shootout may have occurred between members of FARC and the ELN, another left wing group that plans to take control of that jungle area.
3) A group of armed drug traffickers known as the "Rastrojos" may have wandered near to the place where the hostages were detained causing a gun battle with the FARC rebels.
4) A right wing paramilitary group that is also operating in the area may have clashed with the FARC.
This incident occurs just as the Colombian government and FARC are negotiating an exchange of 57 politicians and military personnel for 500 FARC prisoners. Among the group captured by FARC is Ingrid Betancourt, a member of the Colombian parliament that has been hostage for the past five years. Since Betancourt has dual French and Colombian nationality, the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy has been acting as a mediator between President Uribe and FARC in order to secure the release of Betancourt and the other hostages. Recently Sarkozy convinced Uribe to free Rodrigo Granda, one of the main leaders of FARC, which was sent to Cuba. Also President Uribe has been in contact with President George Bush because there are three U.S. citizens among the group of 57 hostages that have been declared "negotiable" by FARC.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Brazil Stunned By Mexico in Copa America

Clash of favorites ends 2-0 for Aztecs

The second match of Group B faced Brazil (current champions of Copa America) against Mexico, that is not the pushover team that it was 20 years ago. Both countries have played each other 5 times in this tournament with four victories for the "yellow-greens" and one for Mexico in 2004. The first twenty minutes of the match were played at such a fast pace that even if play went from one end of the pitch to the other, there were no clear scoring chances for either of the teams. The deadlock was broken in the 21st minute with an amazing goal, similar to that scored by Pele for Brazil against Sweden in the final of the 1958 World Cup. Nery Castillo received a pass in the Brazil area and touched the ball over the head of a Brazil defender and then dribbled another before scoring for Mexico. But that would not be all as in the 29th minute Ramon Morales scored the second for Mexico with a precise left footed free kick from the right wing. Brazil was certainly surprised by what had happened and could not react during the remainder of the first half. However this situation would be corrected by coach Dunga , (that as a player was part of the Brazilian squad that won the 1994 World Cup in USA) as he made several replacements that left Brazil in total control of play under the command of Real Madrid star Robinho. But Brazil's many goal-scoring chances were all blocked by goalkeeper Ochoa that became one of the heroes for Mexico during this match. The Mexicans could only reply with the occasional but dangerous counterattack, that could have increased their lead at least twice more. If Castillo´s goal in the first half will be remembered as a masterpiece, his missed opportunity in the 93rd minute can only be classified as one of the biggest blunders in football history. Castillo received the ball near the halfway line and ran off toward the Brazilian goal , leaving a defender behind. Castillo was also able to evade goalkeeper Doni that tried to block him but with an open goal, the Mexican striker kicked the ball over the crossbar! Now Brazil must defeat Chile on Sunday to keep its chances of qualifying for the next round, while Mexico will also have a tough time against Ecuador, that desperately needs the three points after having lost 3-2 to Chile.

Starting lineups :

Brazil (0) : Doni, (gk) Gilberto, Elton, Maicon, Alex, Juan, Mineiro, Elano, G.Silva, Diego, Wagner Love, Robinho.
Coach: Dunga

Mexico (2) : G.Ochoa (gk), I.Castro, J. Magallon, R. Morales , R.Marquez, N.Castillo,J.Correa,F.Arce, J.C.Cacho R.Morales, F.Pinto.

Coach : Hugo Sanchez

June 28, Cachamay Stadium

Chile Fights Back to Defeat Ecuador

Amazing 3-2 win in Copa America

Chile played its first match of the 2007 "Copa America" on June 28 at the Cachamay Stadium in Puerto Ordaz. There had been a lot of uncertainty as to how the Chilean team would perform in its debut since due to the frequent tropical rainstorms it had been unable to train for the two previous days. This may have been the reason why Ecuador controlled the first half and opened up the score board in the 16th minute with a fast counterattack that was finished off by Antonio Valencia. However Chile struck back only 4 minutes later after a set of passes between captain Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras,Brazil) and Humberto Suazo ended up with the latter player sending a high long range shot into Ecuador’s net. Chile was still showing a lot of distractions in its defense that was capitalized by Ecuador in the 22nd minute as Benitez headed in a loose ball in the area that Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was unable able to catch. Ten minutes before the end of the first half Ecuador could have increased its lead as a striker's shot rebounded against the left post.
At the start of the second half Chile´s Coach Nelson Acosta (whose job is on the line at this tournament) made some correct replacements and brought on midfielder Miguel Riffo and striker Juan Lorca for Matias Fernandez and Reinaldo Navia respectively. Also the goalkeeper Claudio Bravo improved his play and prevented Ecuador from scoring twice near the 60th minute. Acosta would make yet another crucial move in the 65th minute as he brought on attacking midfielder Carlos Villanueva and from then on Chile became another team and took control of play with its short ground level passing. In the 79th minute a good combination of passes ended with Suazo equalizing again with a close range shot in the Ecuador area. But the best was yet to come as in the 85th minute Valdivia was brought down just outside the Ecuador area and it was Carlos Villanueva that became the hero of the night as he scored the winning goal with a precise left footed free kick. As the match ended the crowd of 40,000 fans applauded Chile for its fighting spirit and hopefully the team will continue playing at this level since next Sunday its rival will be none other than Brazil.

Starting Lineups :

Chile (3) : Claudio Bravo (gk), Alvaro Ormeño, Pablo Contreras, Jorge Vargas, Mark González - Arturo Sanhueza, Rodrigo Meléndez (Carlos Villanueva, 73), Jorge Valdivia, Matías Fernández , Reinaldo Navia Humberto Suazo. Coach: Nelson Acosta.
Ecuador (2) : Cristian Mora (gk), Ulises de la Cruz, Iván Hurtado, Giovanni Espinoza, Oscar Bagui , Segundo Castillo, Edwin Tenorio, Antonio Valencia, Edison Méndez - Cristian Benítez , Carlos Tenorio. Coach : Luis Fernando Suarez.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Copa America 2007 Kicks Off in Venezuela

Many goals scored during match day 1

On Jun 26, the 42nd version of the world's oldest football tournament got off to an exciting start at 6:00 p.m. local time at the "Metropolitano" Stadium in the city of Merida. The first match of Group C ended in an unexpected 3-0 victory for Peru over Uruguay, since this last country has won the tournament on fourteen occasions.
Peru showed off its impressive forward line that includes Claudio Pizarro (recently transferred to Chelsea of the English Premier League), and Paolo Guerrero that plays for Hamburg in the German Bundesliga. Pizarro was in great form and tore the Uruguay defense apart with his dangerous runs into the area, a performance that he nearly topped off with a goal in the first half. It was a defender, Miguel Villalta, that scored the first goal of the Copa America with a close range header in the 26th minute. Uruguay tried to reply but its main striker, Diego Forlan (Villarreal, Spain) was completely ineffective. Peru was clearly in control of the match with the precise ground level passes made between its players. In the second
half, Peru proved that it was completely superior to Uruguay as it secured a valuable three point victory thanks to goals by Juan Carlos Marino and Paolo Guerrero in the 69th and 88th minute respectively.
However, the official opening ceremony was held at 8:00 p.m. local time in the city of San Cristobal before the match between the home team and Bolivia. As expected, President Hugo Chavez stole the show as he appeared on the middle of the pitch together with the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales and former Argentine football star, Diego Maradona. The three passed a ball among themselves and to the delight of more that 50,000 spectators it was Evo Morales that gave the "first kick" of the ball with a spectacular high shot into the air. The first match of Group A ended in a 2-2 draw between Venezuela and Bolivia.
On Jun. 24 the Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF in the Spanish acronym) declared that it would propose to the President of FIFA, Joseph Blatter, its willingness to organize the next editions of the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. There are good chances of this happening since the Chavez administration has spent nearly US$ 700 million to build nine new stadiums, that are now the most modern in South America. With these stadiums Venezuela also becomes a good candidate to host the 2014 World Cup as may be an ambition for Chavez that has described them as "having nothing to envy those stadiums seen in the Olympic Games, World Cup or other events."
The Copa America continues today with a two match fixture in Puerto Ordaz that features Chile against Ecuador followed by Brazil versus Mexico.